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H-1B Visas: The Fight to Save Spousal Work Permits

 H-1B viSASThe Trump Administration’s plan to scrap an Obama era rule permitting the spouses of H1-B visa holders to be legally employed is causing a lot of anxiety in the immigration community. But there is hope. Rules prohibited spouses of immigrants who came to work in the U.S. from working. The situation strained the marriages and finances of many couples seeking to build lives and careers in America. President Obama tried to remedy the situation by allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders with pending green card applications to obtain temporary work permits. The new permits, called H-4 visas, allowed approximately 100,000 women to find work. 

The Trump administration moved quickly to repeal Obama’s program. But bureaucratic snags and growing opposition delayed the process of rescinding the rule several times. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will introduce the change in June 2018. There is growing opposition to Trump’s move, however. Many H-4 visa holders have become activists, campaigning under  #standwithh4ead.  And the American Immigration Lawyers Association is lobbying to save the H-4 program. Moreover, McClatchy recently reported that “130 representatives signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging that the Trump administration reconsider its plans to eliminate work authorization for the spouses of H-1B visa holders.”


Also, as the Economic Times points out, H-4 visas are still being issued and renewed, and none have been revoked to date. Revoking the rule entails a lengthy process. Once DHS formally proposes the change, the law requires a 60 day public comment period. And then DHS has to review the comments and answer questions. After that, experts and stakeholders must study the impact of the law before they draft any legislation. And then there may be legal challenges.  That’s not all says New York immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta. “If a legal challenge results in a preliminary injunction, that would freeze the proposal to rescind the rule,” he said.